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Iwokrama to use high-tech drones to spot illegal miners

One four-inch dredge in the Iwokrama Forest (Iwokrama picture)

The Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation says it will be using technology to monitor and catch gold miners and other people engaged in illegal activity in or near the 371,000 hectare (almost one million acre) reserve, in the wake of unauthorised mining that has damaged the forest floor.

“The Centre is installing cameras in certain areas and has also acquired a drone with facial recognition software for remote aerial monitoring,” the Centre said.

The plans include  the strategic placement of  a monitoring station to keep a watchful eye on boat traffic in a number of areas.

Iwokrama said it believes in the development of the hinterland region of Guyana which provides livelihoods for many Guyanese but at the same time all activities must be done within the confines of the laws of Guyana.

The Centre said a joint operation by Iwokrama rangers, Ministry of Natural Resources rangers and police last weekend unearth several dredges and mining camps. “The Centre found camps with several 4 inch dredges and substantive destruction of the forest floor,” the Centre said.

The Natural Resources Ministry says during the patrol, the team encountered evidence of hastily abandoned mining operations in the reserve, as well as operations of an illegal or unauthorized shop close to the Iwokrama buffer zone.

The Iwokrama Centre says it is offering a reward for any information leading to the arrest and successful prosecution of persons involved in illegal activities in the Iwokrama Forest. The Centre will also be following up on information it received on specific mining operators who we have been told have been working in the Iwokrama Forest.

Any arrests will be fully publicized.

Mined Area in Iwokrama Forest

For further information on the management of the Iwokrama Forest and to report any illegal activities in the forest, please contact ONLY Dr Raquel Thomas, Director Resource Management on [email protected] or Ken Rodney, Forest Manager on [email protected]

The Centre says these illegal mining operations were marked increase in intensity from the usual one-man operation using metal detectors and a spade and is of grave concern to the Centre.

Iwokrama says illegal miners and other offenders are taking advantage of the current restrictions and lockdown protocols established to combat the COVID – 19 virus.

The Centre says monitoring team together with the regulatory institutions in Guyana, including but not limited to the Natural Resources Corps of Wardens, Guyana Police Service, the Guyana Forestry Commission, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency will continue to undertake regular monitoring and enforcement activities within the environs of the Iwokrama Forest and the Centre will also be rigidly enforcing the prescribed penalties under the Iwokrama Act and other laws of Guyana to any person found illegally operating in the Iwokrama Forest.